"He put a new song in my mouth" -- Psalm 40:3
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
‘Arise, ye more than dead!’ -- John Dryden, A Song for St Cecilia's Day
All over the country, in the early hours of Friday morning, the young and drunk were singing a strange new song. It was the same everywhere. It had gone viral. In Newcastle and Sunderland, Liverpool, Birmingham, they were chanting Jeremy Corbyn's name to the tune of 'Seven Nation Army' by The White Stripes.
This meme began with Corbyn's surprise appearance at the Libertines concert at Tranmere Rovers football stadium during the campaign, at which Corbyn was rapturously received, and it seems to have spread from there. It would appear quite abruptly at concerts. Fans of the band, Enter Shikari, broke out into "Oh, Jeremy Corbyn" at a gig in late May. It broke out at a gig in Camden in June. And of course, they started it outside his house on the Friday morning after the election.
There were other variations of this kind of chanting coming out during the campaign, such as when, to the tune of September's 'Earth, Wind and Fire', Liverpool football fans chanted:
"Oh Ee Oh Jeremy Corbyn
Oh Ee Oh He's dancing 'round the Tories
Oh Ee Oh The NHS is here to stay..."
Memorably, the surge for Corbyn in the grime scene included Stormzy's endorsement, which was celebrated with a number of video remixes of his song 'Shut Up', referencing a character named 'Corbzy'; JME's interview with the Labour leader; and a remix of one of Chunky Mark's rants with Skepta's hit song, 'Shut Down'.
But the significance of the chant based on the White Stripes riff is that it is universal. That riff gets everywhere, from football pitches to rock stadiums. It's been appropriated by football fans, Grand Prix fans, wrestling fans: a raucous, exuberant affirmation of a cause, and an identity, and taking a side in a fight. That's not unusual.
What is unusual is that it should become the spontaneous song of young people getting ready to vote Labour, or having just voted Labour, celebrating a shock upset. That it should become something other than a throwaway cultural reference, banalised through repetition: that it should become a song about their future, their aspiration, their demand.
Any political intervention is always, at the same time, a cultural intervention. But there are some things you just can't plan. The most powerful trends come out of nowhere. They begin, like the chance swerve of an atom, with a tremor of the vocal chords, a movement of the lips, tongue and teeth -- the word made flesh -- until it swells into a chorus. You can't script that.